Monday 12 July 2010

Camel Cock

I regret the words I spoke last night to my friends in Ankara. "Oh Turkish buses are the best in the world. They make up for the trains. If only England blah blah blah..."

These words were uttered just minutes before boarding a Kamil Koc service from Ankara to Izmir. It was going to be my second experience (counting the trip out there on Friday) of a long-haul bus ride.

So why the regret? Let's start at the beginning...

Some friends were getting married in the Nation's Capital and we needed a way to travel the 579km. I'd driven before but I no longer have a car and, if I did, I fancied a more relaxing means of transportation.

The planes were expensive because we were booking late. So ruling out trains (which are never considered anyway) the only other option was the bus.

Unlike the UK, 8 hours on a bus isn't a big deal to Turks. Izmir to Istanbul or Ankara is a perfectly acceptable alternative.

We headed down to the Kamil Koc ticket office here in Hatay and spoke to the young chap behind the desk. He made me wary from the outset by talking about how "everyone will tell you that Kamil Koc is the best". So why do you need to tell me?

"Oh you're better off coming back at 1am and you'll arrive 10! Lovely!"

Fuck you, that's the middle of the day as far as the thermometre is concerned and I'd rather be safely at home by then. I know your game, mate. You want me to get on the shit-mobile because you can't sell those ungodly tickets. The 10pm bus is going to get people in to work on time and is a breeze to sell. Shove it, I want the 10pm.

"These are techno-seats! There's a TV with lots of different films. USB slots for your movie-filled flash disks. So much leg room, you can do your morning pilates..."

Oooooo USB. Now you've got my attention!

"Coming back, I'm going to give you the best seats on the bus. These two at the back, recline like a bitch and you'll not be disturbed by anyone. You'll sleep like babies until you reach Izmir."

Oooooo USB! OK just give me the tickets!

Boarding the bus to Ankara, we were sat just in front of the middle stair well. Not bad at all. The leg room wasn't amazing. The USB port was... well you know when you buy the cheaper model of something and they annoyingly use the same template for all so you can see where all the better functions should sit but they're blocked off? That was the USB port. Blocked off.

I did the British thing and kept quiet and tried to doze off. Not a chance. I don't sleep on vehicles unfortunately. My girlfriend, however, could sleep on a bike so I watched her instead.

After 4 hours, we arrived at Afyon; the home of sucuk (Turkish garlic sausage) and marijuana. We had a glass of tea and got back on the bus. We arrived, we went to the wedding. Lovely.

Coming back was a different matter. There was a bomb scare at Ankara bus station which meant nothing more than people were running around like headless chickens.

We made our bus with no time to spare and climbed on board. The time is 10pm. The World Cup Final started at 9:30pm. Now, I'm not a football fan but I do like the World Cup and I was hoping to fucking watch it on the bus!

"No signal" came a message on my screen. I called the teenager who serves tea and asked what was going on.

"No football, sorry" I nearly threw my undrinkably hot Nescafe over him.

Then a nudge from my girlfriend and she points to the screen. Game on! We've got signal and we've got a final and we've got ...half time. Bollocks. Oh well, at least we've got something.

Spain wins. Hurrah! That'll teach Robben to run around crying about every little knock.

Time for a doze but ...wait's really hot in here! My legs are burning. There is also a strong smell of burning.

We call the spotty bastard back. "What's going on, why is it so hot?"

"Well, you're sitting on the engine." came his patronisingly obvious reply.

"But they told us these were the most comfortable seats on the bus!"

"Nooooo, you'll never be comfortable at the back". Duh!

Oh jesus no! You mean, I've got 7 more hours of this hamam?

The USB didn't work again. The stupid tart in front of me kept her seat reclined so the table was at a slant, making it necessary to hold my red hot Nescafe with tears in my eyes. My TV was the only one that I could see that was not getting a clear signal. And our seats didn't fully recline.

By the time we reached our half-way break, I had taken off my shoes and socks, rolled my trousers up to my knees and lifted my t-shirt into a crop-top yet the sweat was still pouring off me.

My shoes had almost melted, the packed lunch we'd brought most certainly had. The tepid fart coming out of the aircon could not be directed usefully. All this combined with a lack of sleep, didn't make for a pleasant journey.

By 6am, we were in Izmir Bus Station looking for the service bus home. "We're not going where you want because of road works". But you picked me up from there didn't you? "You'll have to get on this one and make your own way from there". Anything else your company wants to do to us today?

We struggle on with our luggage and sit down and wait a long 15 minutes for the smelly, sweaty transit van to cough into life. "Just so there's no mistakes, this bus is going to Bornova". Mistake!!!!

The git had put us on the wrong bus. "Oh you want the service bus  just pulling out there". STOP THAT BUS!

Throwing our bags out of one and onto another, whilst ignoring the tuts from idiots, we were finally going home.

We get off at the last stop and hail a cab. "We're going to Hatay". We say exhausted but relieved.

"Where's that then?" Are you serious? Oh god, this is never-ending.

"It's back over there!" I say frustrated. He then proceeds to reverse us into a ridiculously busy roundabout. Only milimetres away from a fatal collision with a local bus, he decides that reversing is too dangerous and opts for driving forwards ...the wrong way round the roundabout.

Here I am, finally. Sleepless and furious. I'm writing this publicly to spread the word that, based on this one experience, Kamil Koc are a shower of shit and should be avoided at all costs. They are rude, useless, ignorant, have no desire to please the customer, lie to get custom, leave their passengers stranded and are generally an enormous pile of shit.

If I can be bothered to ever take a bus again, I'll try someone else. Any recommendations welcome.

Thank you for reading and remember:


Nomad said...

We took the train to Ankara and made a mistake of booking a regular seat. It was fairly yuck.. but when we went on to Adana, we cleverly booked a sleeper and the ride was great. You get special treatment and sitting in a dining car drinking cheep beer made the experience pretty nice.
I hate bus travel. I feel like I am trapped in an Iron Lady torture device.

Nick said...

We just had the same experience on Metro coming back from Izmir to Istanbul last week. It was godawful.

Our TVs didn't work and the waystation we stopped at for lunch was owned by Metro and charged 3 times the normal price. They actually had signed posted up telling us that tax (i.e. making profit) was holy if you can believe the audacity.

Finally after arriving at the service transit, we waited another half hour for the bus to take off in a sweltering service. We actually had to round up the driver who claimed that we couldn't leave until the service was full. Well, it had been full for half an hour and then he kicked off 8 people because there were no seats available and it was illegal to have people standing. So 8 people had waited for our overfull service to get going and then got kicked off because we should have left before they had gotten on. Then the service took some random route to the middle of nowhere which managed to go faraway from where anybody lived in those areas.

I would avoid that company at all costs as well.

Unknown said...

I will never complain about riding the local city bus again, your ghastly experience beats some of the not-so-great ones I've had by a country mile!

Unknown said...

Anything except Varan and Ulusoy is shit, or camel cock as you put it, but they're expensive as hell. Trains are, on the other hand, much better than you'd expect, especially if you are a non-sleeper.

Salty Miss Jill said...

My Izmir-based in laws use nothing but Nilufer.

Stranger said...

Oof, freaking Kamil Koç. A few years back they were supposed to drop me off in Alexandropolis (visa run). They failed to do so, which, not being particularly familiar with Greece, I didn't realize until we were halfway through Komotini. I asked why we didn't stop, and they blamed me for not telling them I wnated to get off in Alexandropolis (I had, actually. Twice, to 2 different people who wrote it down on their lists shortly after we left). So I ended up in a town called Xanti, pretty but expensive and not much going on, that was nowhere near the railroad so I had to stay there and miss work for 2 days until there was a run back to Istanbul. Which was actually only to Tekirdağ, as it turned out, and I had to pay for an additional service bus back to Istanbul.